This is a re-run of an article I wrote for LinkedIn a couple of years ago. Given the current situation we find ourselves in, I thought it was worth dusting off. Kane is now 22 months and 48 kilos. He’s still sitting at my feet, and he still eats my trainers.
Well, do we? I’m not so sure. Last month we had an addition to the family. Kane is a 3 month old Golden Retriever and because he needs a lot of attention at the moment, I agreed to take my share of the load and work from home a couple of days each week. As I write this at my kitchen table, he’s trying his best to return my trainers to their component parts. Left unchecked, he’ll probably succeed.
It’s got me thinking: I’m happiest at home, so I’m happier on Thursday when I work from home than I am on Tuesday when I’m in the office. Stands to reason that if I’m happier then I’ll be more productive. 12% more productive according to a 2015 Warwick University study. So I get more done on Thursdays than Tuesdays. That’s definitely true. And then there’s the commute that you’d no longer have. I’m fortunate that I only live 15 minutes from the office, but that’s 30 unproductive minutes that I could be spending doing stuff – work stuff, or personal stuff, or even sleep stuff. The point is it’s a waste of time.
So, if I’m more productive when I work from home then so must all of my team be, right? I’d guess so but all my team have the option to WFH for at least part of the week (except for the admin/receptionist – I’ll come to that later.) They certainly enjoy the flexibility and I bet they get more done too. And if it’s better for me and my team, it stands to reason its better for you and your team.
But what about Jeremy Kyle and all the other distractions of the homeworker? If my experience is anything to go by, they’ll get bored of that pretty damn quickly. And are you saying that you’ve hired people that you don’t trust to do their work unless you’re constantly standing over them? Is this a Victorian cotton mill or a modern business? And you can be sure that there are as many distractions in the office as there are at home.
All of our client work is done in the cloud. Using tools and solutions like FreeAgent, G-suite, Zoom and Slack we can get shit done and communicate effectively from anywhere. Using VOIP technology and iPhones means we are no longer tethered to our desk by a phone cord either. (To be fair we haven’t had desk phones since we opened up eight years ago but that’s another story.)
I mentioned earlier that the only fully office-based team member is Nicole, the admin/receptionist. Chiefly, she’s required to sit at the front desk at a desktop Mac (not a MacBook) and answer a corded phone (not an iPhone) and when I think about this rationally, I really don’t know why. She could just as easily work off a MacBook and a soft-phone from anywhere she likes, but convention has it she should come into the office to deal with the mail and greet any visitors. Never mind that more than 95% of our mail is electronic and that this week, we’ve only had five visitors to the office – all of whom were scheduled – she MUST be in the office Monday to Friday, 9 to 5. This doesn’t make sense to me any more.
I suppose there’s the question of culture and values. How can a team get the culture and values of a business if they don’t all work together? But surely culture and values can come from a shared vision, not a shared office.
And if that doesn’t convince you, what about the filthy lucre? In the the three years I’ve been in our current office, I reckon the office has cost us £75,000 in rent, utilities and fit-out. Wouldn’t that have been been better for business if I’d given this to my team instead? Or even if I’d spent it all on booze and fags?
So, to return to my original question, do we really need an office? Do I need to pay top dollar to for out, rent and heat a space that my team probably would rather not work in, all because convention (and let’s be honest here, a healthy dose of ego) tells me I do? I don’t think so, I really don’t.